Gingerbread cookies plus a glass of milk equals heaven, says Draper baker
Oct 10, 2019 10:47AM
By Linnea Lundgren
Summer-themed gingerbread cookies made by Draper resident and baker Summer Pugh. (Linnea Lundgren/City Journals)
By Linnea Lundgren | [email protected]
There are cookies, and then there are the classic cookies.
Gingerbread, one of the most notable examples, has never gone out of fashion. It’s been in Europe for centuries and sold at medieval fairs. Fast forward to today and it’s known as a holiday treat, typically for Christmas. Summer Pugh wants to change that and make this classic a year-round favorite.
“Gingerbread is so unique that it’s my focus,” said the longtime Draper resident and owner of the Gingerbread Cottage. “I am converting people over (to appreciating it as a year-round treat).” She says it’s so much more than just a sugar cookie. “It’s the most delicious cookie with special spices and a rich, warm aroma that is equally as wonderful as the taste.”
Her love of gingerbread started in Germany, the birthplace of the gingerbread house. While her father was stationed near the Rhein Main Air Force base, the family lived in a century-old village complete with a bakery. That’s where Pugh’s mother learned how to make gingerbread. During the Christmas holiday she’d create gingerbread houses, but made her children wait until New Year’s Day to eat her artwork. For 12-year-old Pugh, that was difficult.
In her adult years, Pugh continued her mother’s tradition of making gingerbread houses, but didn’t wait to eat the leftover house trimmings. “I’d eat them and I’d think, ‘These are so good. I should start a business.’” Family, friends and neighbors, whom she often gifted her creations to, agreed. Soon she moved from home baking to craft shows to a full-time business with an emphasis on cookies — notably gingerbread, but also sugar and chocolate.
“Cookies are my love,” she said. It’s the instant joy she sees on the faces of kids and adults after biting into a cookie that thrills her. Unlike gingerbread houses, she said, cookies are easy to hold and provide instant enjoyment. Add a glass of milk to complement and you’re in heaven, she added.
Seven years ago she started the Gingerbread Cottage. Recently, she moved from a home kitchen to a commercial kitchen by converting her garage into a work studio, complete with large oven and ample counter space. She took her mother’s gingerbread recipe and made it her own, working on improving shelf life and texture. Americans, she noted, like their cookies soft, while Europeans prefer hard cookies. Her recipe is top secret.
Unlike mix, drop and bake cookies (like chocolate chip), creating gingerbread is labor intensive. It involves mixing, rolling, cutting, baking, cooling, icing, drying the icing, finishing the detailing and then individually bagging each creation to keep it fresh. “They take days to make,” Pugh said. “They’re a special cookie to make and a special cookie to give. If you want to make someone feel special, this is the cookie.” She’s often up at 4 a.m. to start the baking and decorating process.
Pugh draws creative inspiration for cookie design from books, magazines, colors and nature. “My motto is anything can be turned into a cookie,” she said. She’s big on themes, such as a summer collection featuring cookies shaped and decorated as ice cream cones, palm trees and sandals. Popular now are logo cookies for corporations looking for a unique gift.
Her perfectionist tendencies have served her well when it comes to the intricate detailing of each cookie. “It’s sometimes a curse, but it’s a blessing when it comes to cookies,” she said.
Although her business doesn’t have a storefront location, Gingerbread Cottage’s cookies are sold at various Draper businesses, including Pirate O’s during the winter holiday season. This year she is offering a no-chill gingerbread mix, perfect, she said, for people looking for an easy way to start their own gingerbread-making tradition in their kitchen.
“That’s how I started,” she said. “I really love the concept of starting family traditions.”
To see more gingerbread cookies, visit thegingerbreadcottage.com.